With the pending exit of Barbara Boxer from the Senate, California Democrats will be lining up to pick the next holder of that seat in their primary next year. (Let’s face it… I’d like to think a Republican could take the seat, but how realistic is that in the current climate?) The heavy money seems to be on Attorney General Kamala Harris. She’s got the executive branch experience, law enforcement background and the diversity boxes are all checked. But state representative Loretta Sanchez doesn’t want to let the battle go uncontested. And like most candidates, she’s out on the trail trying to raise money and garner support from the various interest groups who wish to be involved in the process.

She may have had just a teeny bit of a stumble this week, however. Sanchez was addressing a group of Indian Americans at a steak house during the party’s convention in Anaheim when she began speaking extemporaneously, relating the story of how she was set up for a meeting with an Indian American supporter. Her way of describing the run-up to the meeting, however, caught everyone off guard. (From the Sacramento Bee)

Two days after entering the race for the U.S. Senate, Rep. Loretta Sanchez met with an Indian American group on Saturday and mimicked a racial stereotype of American Indians.

In a video shown to The Sacramento Bee and posted online shortly after, Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, describes a pending meeting she had with an East Indian.

“I am going to his office, thinking that I am going to meet with a,” she said, holding her hand in front of her mouth and making an echo sound. “Right? … because he said Indian American.

In case the description in that paragraph didn’t entirely give away what you are already suspecting… yes. She put her hand up in front of her mouth and moved it back and forth, making the “woo woo woo” sound most of our older readers are familiar with from playing Cowboys and Indians as children. The press now chooses to call it “whooping” for some reason. In case this sounds too incredible to be believed, let’s just go to the video. It comes at around the 43 second mark.

The crowd seems to be almost entirely silent after the display except for some whispers coming over top the normal dinner sounds. I’m not sure if they were shocked, couldn’t believe what they’d just seen or were assuming that they heard it wrong. Perhaps they just assumed she was drunk. (And we can’t rule that out, I guess.) Either way, it landed like a brick.

This is hardly the worst thing that’s ever been said on the campaign trail, but since Republicans would be run out of town on a rail for it, I suppose we should expect the same treatment for Sanchez. For her part, her assumed opponent was quick to rise to the bait.

The other candidate, Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose mother is from from India and father is African American, was provided an account of the event by a reporter after her news conference. She called it shocking. “I don’t know what to say to that,” she said.

Harris later in the evening condemned the comment. “It is shocking and there is no place for that in our public discourse,” she said.

Never one to be caught flat-footed, Sanchez had an explanation for her actions. She said that she mistakenly thought that the phone call she received had been about meeting with someone from “the American Indian community, in the sense of the Native American Indian community.”

I see. Now we get it. You didn’t realize you’d be speaking to someone of Indian descent, but instead thought it was a Native American businessman. So obviously you’d make that “woo woo woo” sound. It’s just obvious when you explain it that way. Not to belabor the point too much here, but that’s exactly what you said when you were telling the story. I’m not sure you’ve quite figured out exactly why everyone is upset yet.

I don’t know how much of a chance Sanchez stood when she started this campaign two days ago, but if she somehow survives this as a Democrat and makes it to even a semi-viable position in the race, the Democrats should just throw in the towel now. If Republicans are the devil for making any sort of even tangentially insensitive remark and you can’t flush this out of the political piping immediately, you should not be playing this game.